In recent years, the need to deal with foreign assets after someone dies has increased. More people are working abroad, opening foreign bank accounts and buying property than ever before.

But such issues can be complicated, especially because the way probate is handled will be different according to the country where the asset is located, all of which makes probate and administration a lengthier process. Different laws will apply to different aspects of the estate.

First, the deceased’s domicile must be confirmed – this means the country of their permanent home. This is likely to affect the estate’s tax position and well as which laws will apply. The deceased’s nationality and residence might also need confirmation.

Different rules

A person’s Will might establish how the person intended their overseas assets to be dealt with. The law in England and Wales says that immoveable assets (land and property) are dealt with according to the laws of wherever the land is located. Bank accounts and other moveable assets are dealt with by the laws of wherever the deceased was domiciled when they died.

Many European countries differ in their approach, using a system based on residency and nationality, which sometimes leads to a conflict of laws.

For foreign assets, the probate process works like this:

  • The executor or administrator needs a date of death valuation of the asset
  • The valuation is submitted to the asset holder (a bank, for example), and the older confirms what is needed to dispose of the asset
  • When the Grant of Probate (or its equivalent) is needed, administrators or executors must seek legal advice in this country and the country where the asset is held to ensure all the applicable laws are complied with and that any tax liability in either country is considered.

At least one overseas asset

Louise Levene is Finders International’s international assets manager. She said: “Nowadays, estates in the United Kingdom are likely to contain at least one overseas asset – and possibly more. This happens for various reasons – a bank account opened abroad while someone was working in that country, a holiday home purchased in Spain or investment accounts set up in the USA or offshore for tax planning purposes.

“The legal and bureaucratic obstacles they cause can be a real headache for estate administrators, which is where we come in. Our international asset service deals with foreign assets, helping to sell, transfer or recover shares, bank accounts, investment portfolios and more.”

Find out more about Finders International’s international assets service here. You can also phone us on freephone 0800 085 8796 (UK only) or +44(0)20 7490 4935.